Serena Ryder is a visceral artist. Her music grabs you by the gut and shakes you around in its rhythmic maelstrom until the only thing you feel is truly alive! Her latest release in the States is a potent EP called Electric Love (Atlantic). Culled from nearly 100 songs that Serena has written over the past three years in Nashville, Los Angeles, Toronto, and London, Electric Love reveals a master artist in her prime.
“When I write, I don’t sit down and have a bunch of lyrics or melodies flowing around in my head, I like to dive right in and feel what it feels like when it’s finished… before it’s even finished!” Serena told Entertaining Options. “I want people to feel something when they listen, so when I first sit down to write, I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s the beat? What’s going to make people move?’ Once I have that beat, the song just writes itself.”
When it comes to the lyrics, Ryder revealed that they just kind of fall out of her mouth. “I like the sound of words. I really like languages, I really like accents, and I really like sound effects and noises. When I start singing to a melody, it’s really very much stream of consciousness.”
“And I love numbers too,” she appended. “Sometimes, I just jam out and sing different numbers because I like how they sound. Maybe that’s something leftover from childhood where you like to count everything?”
As an example, Serena sang “Five, three, four, double six, oh, seven, don’t need it anymore, I’ll delete it and forget it,” a line from “Got Your Number,” one of the singles from her new EP.
“After you’ve finished, you look back at what you’ve written and you go, ‘Holy sh*t, that actually is a cohesive song about something that is not only important to me, but it is also important to other people.’ ‘Got Your Number’ is about taking back the power in your life. You don’t need other people telling you who they think you are, they’ve been doing that your entire life. The song is saying, ‘Hey, I got your number. If I need you, I’ll call you, but I’m pretty cool just jamming out in my living room on my drums, writing this song.'”
Serena sang “See my lightning, hear my thunder,” another line from “Got Your Number.”
“I actually have elements and forces in my body. There really is electricity inside me! My thunder is my voice, my tool to communicate. In this song, I’m waking up, I feel like my eyes are a little bit more open to the world and it’s really exciting! We have all of this technology that shows us the world at the snap of a finger, it gives us the opportunity to answer most questions right away, but we could also just turn off our phones and use our eyes to see.”
Speaking of seeing, the video for “Got Your Number” takes place in a bowling alley during a “Women’s Psychic Weekend.” As such, the video is populated by elements related to clairvoyance.
“The world is a pretty magical place. When you look at it through different lenses, be it a crystal ball, tarot cards, or just your own eyes, you can see the beauty and the simplicity. There’s a character in the video who represents that place inside yourself which holds all the power that you have in your life. You can hold a crystal ball in your hands, but the only way you’re going to hit the mark and knock over all the pins, is to let it go. You’ve been looking for answers in this crystal ball for years, and nobody else can see them, they’re just for you. But if you just look up, you can see in a way you’d never be able to see when that crystal ball is right in front of your face. You have to let it go and trust that you’ll get to where you’re going.”
Ryder is at a remarkable point in her life and her career. Her eyes are opening and she’s discovering new colors and hues, and catching glimpses of how everything is connected.
“I’ve always been a musician and a writer and a dancer. I love the arts,” Serena expressed. “But now, I’m also loving science, math, geography, and philosophy, and I’m finding the correlation between all of them. It’s been exciting and the world makes a little more sense to me now. That’s calming and fun, but it’s also inspiring. I feel like a little kid at this point in my life, even more than I did back in 2009, when I really thought I knew a lot more than I actually did,” she laughed.
“It’s a really interesting place to be,” she continued. “I feel excited about where I am and the things around me. It’s really nice to feel like I’m in my body and I can feel the ground underneath my feet as I’m taking one step at a time, walking through life and being curious about it. Just like a child!”
“Our lives are a lot more similar and connected than we might think,” Ryder added. “We’ve been taught to focus on the differences, what makes people stand out or stand apart from each other. That doesn’t matter as much to me as what makes us the same. We’re all in this together, little puzzle pieces that wouldn’t be here without the other people who are around us, holding us together.”
Sagan Amery knows a little bit about standing out. The powerhouse frontwoman for the hard rock band called Hail Sagan is a “heavily tattooed, purple-haired person” who endured being picked on as a child because she was different. As an adult, she uses her dark music to spread light and understanding. “There is good and there is bad,” Sagan acknowledged during a recent interview, “but dark doesn’t necessarily mean bad. I have horror movie tattoos all over my body and the things that I am into — in terms of visual themes — are related to occult imagery. But I’m not evil. I’m just a person who is drawn to these dark visuals. It doesn’t make me a bad person.”
When Entertaining Options asked Serena to comment on Sagan’s statement, she replied, “I don’t see things as dualistic, either-or, it’s all part of the whole. There’s a Cherokee story about two wolves, a light wolf and a dark wolf, that are constantly battling inside of each of us. The one that you feed is the one that wins the battle. But I’ve found, if you just feed one of the wolves, the other one is going to go hungry and we need both sides inside of ourself to be in harmony. So why not feed both of them?”
Increasingly, Ryder has found the color gray best represents this idea of being whole and in harmony with yourself. To her, gray is not some sliding point located on a scale between black and white, gray is the ideal. It is what we should strive for because it includes both black and white.
“If you mix a little bit of the light with a little bit of the dark, you can find someone’s balance,” Ryder explained. “Gray is a marriage. It’s two people having a child and trusting that the child has a little bit from each parent to make them whole.”
Serena has always used symbols to help her better express abstract concepts. One, in particular, has fascinated the artist for years.
“All of my symbology on all of my different records has included triangles,” Ryder pointed out. “On my last record, Harmony, for example, there were four different triangles. On this new album, I came up with the name Utopia before I came up with the symbol.” [Note: Utopia is currently only available in Canada.]
The word utopia has a curious etymology. In one sense, it comes from the Greek οὐ-τόπος, which translates to “not place.” However, εὖ is an identically pronounced word that means good. Hence, utopia, coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516, has come to signify a mythical perfection, a good place that is not a place. To represent that concept, Ryder chose to use the Penrose triangle [pictured below], an impossible tribar that can’t exist… yet it does. The symbol was created by psychiatrist Lionel Penrose and his son Roger Penrose, a mathematician. It has been described as “impossibility in its purest form.” In addition to representing the seemingly impossible notion of utopia, the triangle also reflects the black, white, and gray needed to create a true whole. A kind of tri-colored yin-yang, if you will.
In closing, Serena reflected on the past and those intangible elements that connect us all.
“When you look back at all the things that define you, the ones you called mistakes were only things you weren’t ready to accept at face value yet. At the time, it might have felt like you were making the same mistake over and over and over again. Looking back, however, you realize, maybe it wasn’t really a mistake, you just needed to learn to pay a little bit more attention to understand yourself a little better.”
“For me, music is the best way to connect to myself and therefore connect to other people. There are a lot of different styles of music, a lot of different lyrics, and a lot of different melodies, but the one thing that remains constant is the emotion that we feel when we listen to something that really relates to us. If you find that and you relate to a melody or a lyric, then run with it! It really is for you. Especially in this day and age because nobody owns music anymore. Music is something that’s out there for everyone. Music is for your ears; it’s for your heart. Whatever you think a song is about, that’s what it is. And that’s a pretty awesome thing. It’s magical.”
Serena Ryder’s Electric Love (Atlantic) is currently available in the US via all digital platforms.